CPSC 327 |
Data Structures and Algorithms |
Spring 2011 |

Gnuplot is a quick and easy plotting program. You can plot functions (like x+6) or data from files.

Start gnuplot from a shell by typing:

gnuplot

You should then get a gnuplot prompt (`gnuplot>`) where you
type gnuplot commands.

To plot a function, type something like

plot x

You can also try the following:

plot 3*x+6 plot x**2 plot log(x)

This plots the functions 3x+6, x^{2} (note the use
of `**` to denote exponentiation), and ln(x) respectively. For
base 10 logs, use `log10(x)`. For logs of other bases, you can
exploit the fact that log_{a} b = log_{c} b /
log_{c} a.

For gaining intuition about big-Theta, it is useful to change the range of x values shown in the plot. Try:

set xrange [0:10] replot

The first command sets the range of x values to be 0 to 10, and the
second repeats the last `plot` command. (The display won't
update until you issue a `replot` or `plot`
command.)

To test if you've gotten a function into the right big-Theta class, you can first plot the lower bound, your function, and the upper bounds. For example, to test if 3n+6 = Theta(n), I might choose n as the lower bound and 4n as the upper bound. Then plot:

plot x, 3*x+6, 4*x

(Note that n is replaced by x.)

Now, set the xrange to something smallish:

set xrange [0:10] replot

Observe that 3x+6 does eventually end up between the two bounds. But let's try a larger range:

set xrange [0:100] replot

Now 3x+6 seems to be pretty solidly between the bounds. Try increasing the range a few more times, though:

set xrange [0:1000] replot set xrange [0:10000] replot

Observe that the shape of the plot changes less and less with each increase, and that 3x+6 stays solidly between the lines. Looks like our big-Theta is correct!

Useful tip: use the up arrow to retrieve previously-typed commands. (You can also edit them before pressing enter.)

Now pick a big-Theta that grows too fast, say n^{2}. Plot
x^{2}, 3x+6, and 4x^{2} (to use the same constant
multipliers as we picked before) starting with a small x range and
then repeatedly increasing the x range. What happens?

Now pick a big-Theta that grows too slowly, say 1. Plot 1, 3x+6, and 4 (to use the same constant multipliers as we picked before) starting with a small x range and then repeatedly increasing the x range. What happens?

Typing

help

takes you into gnuplot's help system, which will tell you quite a bit about what it can do. Press enter when asked for a help topic to get back to the gnuplot prompt.

Quit gnuplot by typing

quit